The Particular and the General
With whichever teacher you sit, such are the letters you will learn. (Me opion daskalo tha katseis, tetoia grammata tha matheis.)
-- Greek proverb
This book began with a child learning to ring a doorbell, affording us entry into a particular and local world of everyday teaching and learning activities. But to stay inside this world would be to forego wider perspectives. This last chapter explores what some of these perspectives might be.
The participants in informal teaching and learning hold the key to our understanding of it, for if, as Vygotsky and other Soviet theorists insist, all cognitive development is social in origin, different players will influence the cognitive structures that are acquired. Or as the Greek proverb tells us, "With whichever teacher you sit, such are the letters you will learn." In this study, the neighborhood and the social relations among neighbors constrained to a large extent the access children and adults had to learning situations. The majority of the episodes I observed involved Alexis as learner and immediate family members as teachers, including his grandfather, grandmother, father, and cousin. The episode with Eleni and Soula demonstrated informal teaching and learning between members of different neighborhood households. Because Eleni's baby was a major attraction among the neighborhood children, parents such as Soula were frequently pulled to Eleni's house to collect their children. This created a natural opportunity for dialogue between the experienced and inexperienced mother.
Without these comfortable interchanges whose purposes are built into the fabric of everyday life, informal teaching and learning is very unlikely to occur. Because of the restricted social relations among Karagounides, Vlachs, and Gypsies, I observed no informal instruction among these groups. Likewise, unless there was a direct family connection, opportunities